News Brief

The African Union’s E-Passport Can Make Intra-African Travel & Trade Easier Than Ever Before

“The scene seems to be set to realize the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020.”

On a 26-hour bus ride between Accra and Ouagadougou, Nanjala Nyabola sat next to a Burkinabe woman who had never met a Kenyan before who proceeds to grill her about life in Nairobi. Nyabola wrote about the unique pleasures of traveling the continent as an African for us in March.


Earlier this month, in a spirit of Pan-Africanism, the African Union announced they would be launching an electronic passport system at its next summit in Kigali, Rwanda in July. The announcement is the first step to a more open and flourishing Africa that tangibly benefits its citizens. It also has the potential to dismantle imposed colonial borders. Overall, it’ll make it easier for Africans to move for better educational and professional opportunities as well as conduct business across borders.

Nyabola’s encounter illustrates how intra-African tourism has been severely underdeveloped caused by highly restrictive visa requirements among the continent’s 54 countries. Exorbitant costs in transportation, particularly air travel, an underwhelming culture of leisure travel in addition to stereotypes Africans from different countries have about each other have also contributed to some countries' relative isolation.

As it stands, only 13 countries on the African continent allow visa-free entry or will issue temporary permit upon arrival, with Americans, one of the holders of the world’s most powerful passports benefiting the most.

Consequently, regional trade has suffered because of regulatory barriers that inhibit the exchange of goods and services. To put this in perspective, intra-African trade costs are approximately 50 percent higher than in East Asia, and the most costly for any developing region. Bureaucratic tape such as permits, licenses and other customs requirements makes it that trucks transporting goods across borders have to carry more than 1,600 documents. These factors are popular topics of discussion for Africa’s policy wonks.

“[It’s] a steady step toward the objective of creating a strong, prosperous and integrated Africa, driven by its own citizens and capable of taking its rightful place on the world stage,” Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) says in the AU’s statement announcing the program launch.

The AU’s flagship program fulfills aspirations two and seven of Agenda 2063, both of which touch on fostering an “integrated” and “united” Africa. A single passport system can help promote a shared identity among the 3,000 distinct ethnic groups on the African continent. Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Ghana have already relaxed their visa restrictions or lifted visa requirements completely.

This concept of open borders isn’t particularly novel, it was outlined in the Lagos Plan of Action and the Abuja Treaty. Of course, the e-passport will be only a first step. AU member states still have to adopt the procedures and legislation for it to go into effect. And xenophobia presents another challenge.

As Nyabola articulates in How to Travel Africa as an African, “It never ceases to amaze me how easily we absorb other people’s prejudices about each other, without reflecting on who disseminates these stereotypes and why.” Adding, “I’m ashamed to admit that for most of my life, I had been afraid of Africa because most of the information I received about other countries has been filtered through the West.”

Plans are to roll out the e-passport to AU Heads of State and Government; Ministers of Foreign Affairs; and the Permanent Representatives of AU Member States based at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia first at the 27th AU Summit next month.

And so “the scene seems to be set to realize the dream of visa-free travel for African citizens within their own continent by 2020,” as the AU states.

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Stormzy performs during The BRIT Awards 2020 at The O2 Arena. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage) via Getty Images.

Watch Stormzy's Powerful BRIT Awards Performance Featuring Burna Boy

The night saw the British-Ghanaian star run through a medley of songs from his latest album, Heavy Is the Head.

The BRIT Awards 2020, which went down earlier this week, saw the likes of Stormzy take home the Best Male trophy home and Dave win Best Album.

The night also saw Stormzy deliver a stunning performance that featured a medley of songs from his latest album, Heavy Is the Head. The British-Ghanaian star started things out slow with "Don't Forget to Breathe," before popping things off with "Do Better" then turning up the heat with "Wiley Flow."

Stormzy nodded to J Hus, playing a short bit of "Fortune Teller," before being joined onstage by Nigeria's Burna Boy to perform their hit "Own It." Burna Boy got his own moment and performed an energetic rendition of his African Giant favorite "Anybody."

The night was closed off with a powerful message that read: "A lot of time they tell us 'Black people, we too loud.' Know what I'm sayin'? We need to turn it down a little bit. We seem too arrogant. We a little too much for them to handle. Black is beautiful man." The message flashed on a black screen before a moving performance of "Rainfall" backed by his posse.

Watch the full performance below.

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The ornate gilded copper headgear, which features images of Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles, was unearthed after refugee-turned-Dutch-citizen Sirak Asfaw contacted Dutch 'art detective' Arthur Brand. (Photo by Jan HENNOP/AFP) (Photo by JAN HENNOP/AFP via Getty Images)

A Stolen 18th Century Ethiopian Crown Has Been Returned from The Netherlands

The crown had been hidden in a Dutch apartment for 20 years.

In one of the latest developments around art repatriation, a stolen 18th century Ethiopian crown that was discovered decades ago in the Netherlands, has been sent back home.

Sirak Asfaw, an Ethiopian who fled to The Netherlands in the '70s, first found the relic in the suitcase of a visitor in 1998, reports BBC Africa. He reportedly protected the item for two decades, before informing Dutch "art crime investigator" Arthur Brand and authorities about his discovery last year.

The crown is one of only 20 in existence and features intricate Biblical depictions of Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit. Historians believe it was given to the church by the warlord Welde Sellase several centuries ago.

Read: Bringing African Artifacts Home

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Still from Youtube.

Watch Samba Yonga's Kick-Ass TED Talk on an 'African Superhero Curriculum'

The co-founder of the Zambian Women's History Museum speaks about the importance of indigenous knowledge in creating Africa's own superheroes.

Co-founder of the Zambian Women's History Museum, Samba Yonga, is on a mission to reclaim Africa's history and indigenous knowledge in a way that allows Africans to centre themselves in their own narratives and become their own superheroes.

She recently spoke at TEDxLusaka about developing a "blueprint for the African superhero curriculum". It's the TED talk that you definitely need to watch this year.

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Amanda Black Shares Stunning Visuals for ‘Ndizele Wena’

Watch Amanda Black's new music video for 'Ndizele Wena.'

South African singer Amanda Black recently released visuals for her latest single "Ndizele Wena." The track is a love song in which she promises to stay with her lover through all the ups and down. She sings in the first verse:

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